Conventional pest control based on the use of synthetic insecticides is very effective, however, this has important negative effects on the environment such as the loss of farmland biodiversity, especially in the group of invertebrates, including many beneficial organisms. Another key problem is the presence of insecticide residues in surface and groundwater or, potentially, in harvested products.
Flower strips, adapted to particular crops, soil quality and pedoclimatic conditions, can significantly support natural pest control and pollination. Flower strips are a type of ecological compensation area and are defined as strips of species-rich plant mixtures on arable lands. They are aimed of delivering different ecosystem services (mainly natural pest control and pollination) and conserving biodiversity.
A well-selected mixture, utilising annuals, biennials and perennials guarantees a flowering relay throughout the season and in this way attract useful insects and other groups of invertebrates alongside the cash crop. This Practice Abstract provides specific practic recommendations on how to incorporate flower strips. For example, flower strips are established mainly to support arable farming systems with natural pest control and pollination. The first service is principally delivered by natural enemies of pests, i.e. parasitoids, predatory insects and spiders. The second service is supported by insects that collect pollen or nectar. The key consideration when selecting plant species for flower strips is to maximize their effectiveness in attracting the invertebrates during the growing season. Further, selection of plant species should especially take into account the requirements of the desired insect species so that it can support natural plant protection and pollination.